Pirates plying the waters off Somalia are estimated to have netted between USD 25 million and USD 30 million in ransom this year as lawlessness and insecurity increases across the country, the UN chief said.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his quarterly report to the UN Security Council the surge in piracy and armed robbery against ships along the Somali coast has severely affected trade, contributed to a humanitarian crisis, and further weakened the country's transitional federal government.
From January through October, Ban said, about 65 merchant ships, with about 200 crew members each, have been hijacked off the coast of Somalia.
"It is estimated that, since the beginning of 2008, between USD 25 and USD 30 million has been paid in ransom to pirates," the secretary-general said.
That doesn't include the potential ransom for 17 vessels and more than 300 crew members which the International Maritime Bureau's piracy reporting center in Malaysia said yesterday were still in the hands of pirates. They include a Ukrainian ship loaded with weapons and a Saudi Arabian supertanker carrying USD 100 million in crude.
Ban said the global economic downturn has "has had severe repercussions on Somalia's already troubled economy," with the surge in piracy affecting trade so adversely the Somali shilling has depreciated by almost 80 per cent.
Inflation is "unbridled," especially in south-central Somalia where fuel prices increased by almost 170 per cent and staple food prices by more than 250 per cent between August 2007 and August 2008, he said.